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It's an exciting time for the email marketing industry, and no matter what Mark Zuckerberg says, the end is certainly not nigh, according to new research published this week from Econsultancy.

According to Econsultancy's 2012 Email Marketing Platforms Buyer's Guide, the UK email marketing industry grew by an estimated 15.5% last year to a value of £388 million by the end of 2011. 

The research highlights that the rise of cross-channel marketing is helping to fuel growth in the email marketing industry. Rather than operating in its own silo, email is now seen as an essential component of a wider campaign. Thanks to the rise of mobile, email is now everywhere, accessible anywhere, at any time and at any location. 

Email has been around for a long time, and it's a channel that both marketers and consumers are familar with. Companies are finally getting to grips with best practice and are getting far better at optimising their email campaigns. Email filters are getting better at detecting spam and, because consumers are used to receiving corporate newsletters, email is often perceived to be far less intrusive than other communication channels, such as SMS and social media. 

The perennial question is whether social media and other new, emerging channels are signalling the death knell for email. However, the signs indicate that the era of email is far from over, as email is utilised as part of a wider campaign. The consensus is that social media marketing bolsters the effects of email marketing, as the market has grown. 

Henry Hyder Smith, Managing Director of Adestranoted: 

With the rise of social media, the talk of the industry at the beginning of 2011 was all about social media being the death of email. The market has actually grown and the two channels have grown to complement each other.  Email marketing has not lost its place in the marketing communications mix, but it has and will have to evolve to fit into the changing times. There has been a rise in email automation to fit into this change, moving from load and blast to a focus on relevant and 1:1 communications. The coming years will see email evolve even further, to fit into this social world we are rapidly becoming.

However, user behaviour is changing as a result of how email is consumed, which is partly a consequence of the rise of the multichannel experience. The proliferation of different devices, including mobile and tablets, is well documented. 

Tim Watson, founder of independent email consultancy, Zettaspherereports that the growth of mobile has an impact on a range of digital channels:

The mobile habit is having a positive impact on both email and social media combined. Mobile email has meant email is the first channel read in the morning and the last at night. The smartphone will for the first time connect some people to the online world who have until now been offline.

A key trend in 2012 will see demand for greater relevance, with marketers seeking to make email campaigns highly focused and targeted. Social media filters (such as the Facebook Newsfeed), which sort items in terms of importance, have enabled consumers to manage noise levels on the internet, which also has important consequences for email. Gmail's Priority Inbox and Hotmail's grey-mail filtering may reduce visibility of emails, which means companies need to stay highly relevant and engaging, in order to stand out.

In terms of user behaviour, it's clear that consumers are no longer accessing email on their desktop or laptop, but also on-the-go via their mobile or tablet device. This provides a key opportunity for the savviest marketers to provide highly relevant and personalised campaigns based on real-time location data. 

For example, check-in programmes (using platforms such as Foursquare or Gowalla) allow companies to see where their customers are interacting with them offline. This data can be integrated into targeted email campaigns that offer consumers rewards and incentives when they check into an offline branch or retail outlet. Some astute companies many also opt to create offers for customers who check into their competitors’ locations.

However, mobile is also a key challenge, as it means marketers need to work harder to adapt their email messages for a wider range of devices. Not only does this mean ensuring that emails are readable across different platforms, but also that they are optimised for the mobile and touch-screen experience. The failure to adapt email communincations for the mobile can result in lost business or a lower conversion rate, as marketers are making it harder for consumers to interact with them on the move. 

Abi Clowes, Head of Marketing at Pure360, said: 

Mobile and tablet optimisation is in high demand as marketers realise their audience is using a broader range of devices to read their emails. The rate of people using multiple devices to view their messages is prompting cross-channel integration with ESPs either offering email, mobile and social off one platform or providing simpler integration into other platforms.

There are various tools available to marketers to optimise their emails (such as Litmus, CampaignCog or MailboxIQ) but despite this, marketers have been slow to adapt their emails for different devices, as research published last year by Econsultancy and RedEye indicates: 

The good news for marketers is that given email's longevity and its ability to deliver robust ROI, even in difficult economic times, acquiring senior management buy-in and increasing budget for email is less of an issue than in previous years. However, there needs to be a different way of looking at email, with the emphasis placed on using advanced email tactics to deliver highly optimised campaigns. 

Tami Forman, Senior Director of Global Corporate Communications at Return Path, said:

 We've had 20 years of looking at email in the same way, and now that is starting to diverge into a new way of looking at email marketing.

There is plenty more information and detailed market trends in our Email Marketing Platforms Buyer's Guide 2012, which contains profiles of 20 leading players in the market. 

Image credit: SliceofNYC on Flickr

Aliya Zaidi

Published 24 January, 2012 by Aliya Zaidi

Aliya Zaidi is Research Manager at Econsultancy. Follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn or Google+.

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